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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Saudi Arabia: billions of dollars spent in defense without success

The most difficult missiles to intercept drone aircraft

On September 14 the drone attacks to two plants oil of the Saudi Arabian stategiant was one of the worst ever (see AVIONEWS) since Saddam Hussein set fire to Kuwait petroleum wells during the Gulf War in 1990. Riyadh declared on September 17 that oil production will return to normal much faster than initially feared, but the incident shocked the oil markets. The billions of dollars spent by Saudi Arabia on military defense systems designed primarily to intercept and prevent high-altitude attacks have failed to stop low-cost drones.

While Putin offered his S-400s to Saudi Arabia on September 16 to increase its protection technology (see AVIONEWS), a Saudi security analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, said on "Reuters": "what it happened represents for us a sort of September 11. Where did the US arms go for which we spent billions of dollars to protect the Kingdom and its oil facilities?".

The main Saudi air defense system was the long-range American "Patriot" surface-to-air missile (MIM-104), which successfully intercepted the ballistic weapons launched by the "Houthi" in Saudi cities since a coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015. But since drones and cruise rockets are small, they fly more slowly and at lower altitudes, they are more difficult to detect by radar because they do not give off the same heat as a long-range missile.

Jorg Lamprecht, CEO and co-founder of "Dedrone", a US aviation security company, said that there are more effective techniques for managing drones: a combination of radio frequency and radar detectors is needed, as well as "jamming" technologies that could emit radio signals to interfere with their operation.

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